Government launches bid to cut people's salt intake by 30%

Government launches bid to cut people's salt intake by 30%

The Public Health Ministry aims to cut people's sodium intake by 30% in five years in a campaign under way to combat excess salt consumption that causes many chronic diseases.

According to the Department of Disease Control (DDC), salty food causes many deaths and chronic suffering from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including hypertension and kidney failure.

The ministry has set the target of reducing people's sodium intake by 30% by 2025, said DDC deputy director-general Kajornsak Kaewjaras.

Surasak Kantachoovetsiri, president of the Network for Reduced Sodium Consumption, said excessive sodium intake poses a high risk factor for several serious diseases.

He said that many meals sold at eateries and stalls already have generous portions of sodium, with consumers preferring to add even more condiments to their meals, making them even saltier.

Sodium intake should be limited to no more than 2,000 milligrammes -- or one teaspoon -- per person a day, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), which reports that Thais consume twice that amount on average.

The network says that salty food consumed over a long period of time causes kidney disease and high blood pressure and eventually leads to poor heart conditions.

There is also a real risk a high sodium intake contributing to osteoporosis and chronic renal failure (CRF).

In Thailand, about 7.6 million people suffer from CRF, according to the network which is waging a war on excessive sodium consumption by driving the "Lod Kem Tham Dai" (Less Salt Action) campaign joined by the Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth) and the Nephrology Society of Thailand.

Pairoj Saonuam, a senior official at ThaiHealth, said information will be shared to people of all age groups, including children, to warn them about the dangers of eating food containing too much salt, sugar or fat.

A survey has shown that on average, Thais consume 3,640mg of salt -- or 1.8 teaspoons -- per day, which is well above the WHO's maximum recommended amount.

The survey was conducted last year among 2,400 people, 53% of whom are women, with the average age being 43. Also, 30% of respondents had higher than normal blood pressure, said Wichai Aekplakorn, head of the Department of Community Medicine, Ramathobodi Hospital, which commissioned the survey.

The survey shows that people in the South eat the most salt, at 4,110mg per day, followed by people in the Central Plains provinces, at 3,760mg per day; those in the North consume 3,560mg of salt per day; in Bangkok, it's 3,500mg per day and in the Northeast it's 3,320mg per day.

"Food saturated with salt is typically found at eateries and restaurants. The majority of people dine out. Some are totally dependent on bought food for breakfast, lunch and dinner," said Dr Wichai.

"All the more reason why we need to keep this less salt campaign rolling," he said.

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